Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving in Paris

I am writing you from Paris where my family and I just celebrated our favorite holiday together—Thanksgiving. My son, Josh, an NYU student, is in the midst of a semester abroad here. Although this is not a French holiday—we thought we would join him and have our own celebration. It has been a feast, the days before and after our Thanksgiving, as we enjoyed the pleasures and decadences of French dining from the cheeses, French breads and pastries. (Although I must say there is a strong lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, and today’s task will be to locate a fresh market).

On Thanksgiving Day, we only had one glitch—the French do not eat turkey. In fact, through the eyes of Frenchmen, turkey is served to peasants and sometimes only at Christmas. It is rarely, if ever seen on restaurant menus. At the restaurant we chose for our private Thanksgiving feast, I did manage to find a small hen which was a fabulous substitute. I ordered mashed potatoes and salad—just the type of meal I would have prepared, had we celebrated at home. In the end, I came to realize that home is where your family is and the fact that we were all together was even more important than the food which was served. After all,

Thanksgiving has always been our favorite family holiday for as long as I can remember. One of the reasons we love it, is that it is does not have religious connotations. I recently learned that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida, America’s oldest towns and the one that all Florida school children (including my own) have visited at least once during their youth. The one thing I remember about that town, this many years later is the old school house and the dunce cap worn for misbehavior and as the name implies, ‘stupidity.’ In those days they definitely knew nothing about being politically correct! They would never get away with such a practice today.

In addition to Thanksgiving being a good excuse to get together and eat with loved ones, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and to give thanks, in general. The dinner table as a perfect place to reconnect and tell stories and catch up. It’s fun to reminisce about past holidays and how in the 1970s my husband and I had our honeymoon in France. We discussed all we are thankful for. In years gone by, when my kids were young we used to feed the homeless at the local shelter in Orlando where they fed 1500+ people in a big tent downtown. My kids would go to the buffet and fill up plates of turkey, mashed potatoes and yams accompanied by a bun and serve all the homeless men, women and children. There was enough gratitude to go around. They were thankful for the warm meal, and we were thankful to be able to help and for the life we lived. As we struggle with social and economic issues we must never forget all the good which surround us and to always find time to journal our blessings.

In fact, this is a good week to do some powerful gratitude journaling!

Writing and Tooting Your Horn

Publishers used to be involved in both the editorial and marketing aspect of  most (if not every) books they  launched. These days, unless you are a New York Times bestselling author, publishers do little in the way of aggressive marketing, regardless of the size of the publishing house.

It has been said that authors must do their fair share of marketing. Most authors, myself included, would prefer to spend their time writing rather than promoting their books, but the truth of the matter is if we don’t do some marketing, our nearest and dearest friends, family and colleagues, may never know about our book.

I am lucky because years ago I had a small publishing company and therefore I understand some basic marketing techniques which over the years have become second nature to me. I have learned to do something much against my grain, which is to ‘toot my own horn.’

In the November 16th issue of Publisher’s Weekly there was an article called, “Blame it On The Rep: When An Author Has to Sell His Own Book.” The content of the article really hit home with me. I love the opening line, “Along with developing a patent for a cordless extension cord, being a writer was one of my life’s goals.” This is in alignment with my belief that most of us are writers not because we want to be one, but because we have to be one. It’s a passion that pulls us. Michael Spradlin, the author of the article, began his career as a publishing rep and then began writing his own books, a similar track to my own.

The biggest difference is that when I wrote my first book in the 1980s, The Internet was not a vital part of modern living like  it is today – but selling and reselling postal mailing lists was the best option for reaching an audience. I licked one too many stamps for envelopes announcing my latest book. These days, authors do not have any excuse not to market themselves. When Penny Sansevieri’s book, Red Hot Internet Publicity was released a couple of years ago – I devoured all her tips and ideas – something an author can do in the privacy of her home, without the risk of having doors slammed in her face. This new dimension to our profession is here to stay – whether our books are in book or kindle formSo all you writers out there, promise me when you finish reading this entry, you will change screens and announce to at least one person what you are working on or what is your next release! Don’t rely on others to do what is now your work.

Possibilities, Shamanic Healers and Reflections

Last Wednesday at Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara, I attended a reading by a writing friend, Hope Edelman. We had first met at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Program back in the 1990s—where I was the student and she the instructor. I vividly recall sitting on the bench by the river, chatting as she pushed her baby carriage back and forth, cajoling her crying daughter. As the author of Motherless Daughters , I remember observing that her maternal instinct was strong. Today, that baby is twelve years old and the subject of her latest book, The Possibility of Everything. There are only a handful of nonfiction writers who I truly admire and whose work resonates deep inside my psyche and Hope is one of those.

The subject of Hope’s new book will intrigue even those who do not have a spiritual streak. Hope describes the book’s impetus as the introduction of ‘Dodo,’ into her three-year old daughter Maya’s life. As we learned during her powerful reading, Dodo was Maya’s imaginary friend who insidiously infiltrated every aspect of this young family’s life. This imaginary friend would instruct Maya to take random and bizarre actions, such as walking into a room where her mother was, hitting her and then leaving.

To help fix the problem, most parents would decide on the traditional medical route and pull the child down a path of intense psychoanalysis and perhaps years of treatment with a long train of still-unanswered questions as to whether the child is schizophrenic. But not Hope and her husband Uzi. with the encouragement of their Nicaraguan nanny, the couple decided to pursue nontraditional modalities.They packed their bags and took their daughter to Belize hoping that the healers there would help Maya banish Dodo from her life. The book is about that journey which ultimately lead to Maya’s cure.

A link has been made between children who have imaginary friends and creativity. As a matter of fact, Hope admitted that she had imaginary friends as a little girl, but supposedly they did not adversely affect her childhood nor her childhood relationships. In other words, unlike her daughter Maya, she did not become obsessed by her imaginary friend. As an only child, I also had imaginary friends, who helped to fill the gap of having siblings as playmates. After hearing Hope’s story, I have grown even more curious about the connection between these friends and creativity. I wondered if any of my readers have any comments.

I have only begun The Possibility of Everything, but cannot put it down. In addition to wanting to hear Hope’s story and her family’s extremely unorthodox choice to journey in Belize and visit shamanic healers, I am also intrigued by the idea of shamanic healers, in general, and other complimentary modalities.  I would love to hear about your experiences in this area.

Celebrate Collaboration

I am always up for a good reason to celebrate and today is a special one for me as it marks the launching of my latest book, YOUR HIGH RISK PREGNANCY: A PRACTICAL AND SUPPORTIVE GUIDE. This book was originally published in 1988 under the title of, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: A Guide to Infertility and High-Risk Pregnancy. Since its initial publication and cover designed by my daughter, Rachel at the age of three, there have been two subsequent editions.

The first edition was written while I was on bed rest with Rachel. After she was born, my husband and I self-published the book in our basement on what was probably the first desktop publishing program, Ventura Publishing. From that basement I sold 10,000 copies and was then went on to sell the rights to Hunter House Publishers who released all the subsequent editions. This newly updated version could not have been completed without the generous assistance of Errol Norwitz, MD, Professor of Yale School of Medicine, Co-Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital. When the publisher asked me to update the book, I knew I wanted to collaborate with a physician specializing in high-risk pregnancies. After a thorough Google search, Dr. Norwitz’s name was first on my list.. Our connection was truly serendipitous. I phoned him to ask if he would be interested in updating this book with me. When I mentioned the book’s title, he stopped and said with enthusiasm, “I would love to. You know, I am familiar with your book. It’s on my bookshelf. I’ve had it since I was a medical student in South Africa!”

That moment reignited my belief in the value of my book. After Dr. Norwitz graciously accepted my invitation, we spoke nearly every week for three months. During each conversation I would interview him about the latest developments in high-risk pregnancy management. He has been a sheer delight to work with: professional, knowledgeable and eager to craft a book which will continue to help many women. Because I’ve heard that not all collaborative efforts are successful, I certainly consider myself lucky. I want to celebrate this new edition, and perhaps more importantly, celebrate an effective collaborative effort. On the book’s new back cover, just before describing the book’s contents, “You are not alone,” is printed in bold letters. This not only applies to all pregnant women who will read my book, but to it also applies to me for having had such a great collaborative partner for the rebirth of this title. In addition to the many medical updates, one change that is close to my heart is the addition of a “Journaling Corner,” at the end of each chapter, which provides prompts for women to write about their own high-risk pregnancy experience. As a journaling advocate, I just could not help but to share my passion with others. I invite you and your loved ones in need of such a book, to purchase it on Amazon or from your local bookstores. Errol Norwitz and I both thank you, our readers!

http://www.amazon.com/Your-High-Risk-Pregnancy-Practical-Supportive/dp/0897935209/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257832398&sr=8-8

Pregnancy Book Cover

You Don’t Have to Be A Poet to Write Poetry

This past weekend marked the first of my poetry readings for my latest collection, THE GUILT GENE. This is a collection which I really enjoyed putting together.

It has been said that poets should not give away their secrets because there are people seated on benches waiting to copy and emulate—but as an instructor of writing, it is just a part of what I do. The secret I want to share with you is that you do not have to be a poet to write poetry.

Really. You don’t and I will tell you why.

The first poem I wrote as an adult was about fifteen years ago. The poem, called Park Avenue, was inspired by being watched by a senior citizen sitting on a bench outside my favorite coffee shop. As a woman taught to park in New York, by her car-loving father, I knew that I was a darn good parallel-parker. The gentleman on the bench on Park Avenue insisted on staring at me and his glance aggravated me so much that I decided to write a poem about the experience.

I read the poem at my writer’s meeting that week and received accolades. As a nonfiction writer, I was proud of my work, and realized the importance of words stemming directly from emotion. In addition, there is this certain unexplainable magic that happens when a poem is born. The poet is filled with a sense of joy and fluttering which creeps along the skin. Just try it. Sit for a few moments and think about an emotion or image which has recently grabbed you and write a poem about it.  Examine the details in your every day world; isolate one moment or image and dig deeper into it and you will surprise yourself.

My other secret is that most of my poems are inspired by a recent image or emotion. Below are two poem selections from THE GUILT GENE:

The Library

In the happy moments

of childhood

a public library sits

nestled between a department store

and a post office,

the only place I could find peace

from the yelling and screaming

at home

and the fallout shelters at school.

That little library card

bearing my name beneath

lamination could protect me

more than the words of my father

who would take me onto his lap,

swear to me that everything would be okay.

In the end books would save me.

Knowledge is the only thing

that cannot be stolen away.

California Roll

On route to my favorite coffee shop

in the building beside your place,

my mind meanders toward

the neighboring mountains

where we trekked long ago

and yodeled to the world how we

wanted to be forever arm-in-arm

when all of a sudden

a glance into my rear view mirror

meets the flashing lights of the law

signaling for me to pull aside.

He asks about the stop sign I blew through.

Having a blank moment

I mutter something about being

new to the area

don’t mention that for the past few weeks

friends and family have been

teaching me the lovely local dance

they call the California Roll.

I don’t mention you either.

I just say I’m sorry.

It won’t happen again.

the guilt gene_cover


Quote of the Week


"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me


I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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